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California School for the Deaf teams faced off in Riverside in 'Iron Chef'-style match

02:27 PM PDT on Friday, April 2, 2010
The Press-Enterprise


Video: Scene from student cook-off

While a digital clock overhead showed the minutes ebbing away, the tension was high and the noise level was low as a dozen student chefs competed to make the best three-course meal Thursday in Riverside.

Two teams from the California School for the Deaf's Riverside and Fremont campuses chopped, whisked and sautéed for supremacy in the first-ever deaf culinary bowl, a timed "Iron Chef"-style cook-off, at the Riverside school.

Spectators lined the kitchen/classroom to watch as students created meals of salad, chicken and vegetables and a dessert for a three-judge panel. Videographers zoomed in on bubbling pots and bustling cooks, and two large screens displayed the action.
CSDRcookoutpixMost of the students and spectators communicated in American Sign Language, so aside from occasional applause and shouts, the main sounds during the contest were clinking dishes, tapping spatulas and sizzling food on the stoves.

Ian Goldstein, a former restaurant chef who has taught culinary courses at the Riverside deaf school for two years, cooked up the idea of the competition and wants it to become an annual event.




DaJanica Resch garnishes a pecan pear torte as Donna Melena, left, and Kayla Thomas work on other dishes at an Iron Chef event at the California School for the Deaf Riverside. Alicia Robinson / The Press-Enterprise


Getting feedback from judges will help the students, some of whom hope to enter culinary careers, Goldstein said through a sign language interpreter.

"It's a really hot job right now. It's growing a lot," he said.

The students had about two hours to prep, cook and serve to the judges, who included the owner of a San Diego catering business and the Riverside Marriott's executive chef.

After the panel tasted the offerings, which included spinach-cheese stuffed chicken with asparagus and butternut squash, and chocolate éclair with raspberry mousse on raspberry sauce, the Riverside team was declared the winner.

Paradise Larizza, a sophomore on the Riverside team, said through an interpreter the contest was a little stressful. When the clock ran out, her team was scrambling to get its dishes ready.

As to a secret ingredient that might have kept them from lagging behind, Larizza named something that's important whether teammates are talking with their hands or their voices: "More communication."



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